Advent, Prayer, and a Rant

Ok, I think I’m a really positive person.  99.9% of the time.

I have a policy that I will never use this blog to post anything negative.

Well, I’m about to break that rule.

There’s something that’s driven me crazy for years and I think Advent is the time to bring it up.

We see examples of people in the Bible challenging, whining, ranting and raving to God as well as thanking, praising and asking.

Now I know we can say anything at all to God in prayer.  Just like a toddler can say outrageous stuff, a parent still loves to hear them talk.  It’s all good with God.  No matter what you say He’s not going to vote you off the island.

But there’s a phrase I hear people use all the time that doesn’t make sense to me.  They pray, “Lord be with…”

For the love of Christmas, why???!!  He IS with us!  Always.  Jesus came to earth.  Emmanuel, God with us.  He left His Holy Spirit to be in us always.  So why ask Him to “be with” us?

It’s a sure thing!  Like betting that the Cubs won’t make it to the World Series.  Again. Or that Bob Goff will do something delightful.  Or that the Oscars will go overtime.

Bam! It’s a done deal!

Do we pray this way because:

a. We know God has promised this, but He might forget?

b. It’s a space filler?  We can’t think of anything else to pray and it sounds holy?

c. We want a 100% prayer batting average.  Praying for a sure thing is safe?

I count:

  • 18 verses where God says “I am with you”.
  • 7 verses that say, “God is with you.”
  • 4 verses that say, “The Lord is with you.”
  • 4 that say, “I will never leave you.”
  • And one verse that says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

What part of “never” don’t we understand?  Could we all agree not to insult God with this request?

Now, I can totally understand praying that people we love would be aware of God’s presence with them…that they would sense His love in palpable ways.  Great!  Let’s go with that!  But we don’t need to pray that He would be with them.  He is.

Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Ok, I feel better now.  Back to the positive policy.  Thanks for letting me rant.

What bugs you?

10 thoughts on “Advent, Prayer, and a Rant

  1. I’m glad you brought this up, Laura. I think it’s one of those things that people don’t really think about when they say it. One that bugs me is when people say Lord or Jesus or God over and over again when they’re praying. Nobody does that when they’re talking to a person. Are they worried that God is going to quit paying attention to what they’re saying if they don’t keep saying his name? Like you, I don’t want to be negative, but I wonder if people realize how it sounds.

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    • Yes, that’s true! Hadn’t thought of that one. But even as I posted this I was thinking I don’t want to be self-conscious when I pray – afraid that people are critiquing ME! 🙂 It’s a little scary to put a rant out there, cuz I certainly don’t get it “right” either!

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  2. Instead of sharing what bugs me I want to share why I think we (I) sometimes pray things and say things that bug others (my apologies in advance, I say ‘God be with’, I say ‘just’ and I say God’s name over and over so I’m gonna be really nervous next time I have to pray in front of anyone!!). I’m a broken person. I DO think that prayer is a discipline (familiarizing oneself with God and His promises so when we pray we are fully aware of them), I also think sometimes we (I) come before God so distraught, so passionate and emotional about what is on our hearts (both good and bad) that the words that come out might not be perfect…but they are heartfelt…and I am broken and a work in progress.

    That is just my two cents…or maybe it’s just a penny. 🙂

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    • Oh Cara, I totally agree with everything you’ve written! And I hesitated to post for this exact reason! I think God must delight in our bumbling heartfelt prayers much more than pharisaical speeches. I don’t want anything to keep us from approaching Him, but just to know that we can do it anytime, anywhere because He’s always with us. That’s one thing we don’t need to ask for. Thanks so much for your comment!

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  3. Using “just” in prayer seems like an apology every time. To me, the prayer i’m listening to when someone repeatedly uses that lead of I just” – well, it loses strength for me as a listener in the congregation. I get a vision of that obsequious Golum character! Perhaps it’s ” just ” a style of speech and part of sincere prayer for the pastor or the person leading grace at a meal, but it “just” bugs me. I don’t believe God requires apology in every sentence from us.

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    • Thanks for sharing, Liz! Like with Clare, I agree with you, but as I’m reading and reflecting on these comments and my post, I’m thinking how it must delight Satan to distract us with this stuff as we’re praying with others! It’s a challenge isn’t it? I think, like Cara wrote, we should be getting to know God more and more so we know who we’re talking to (which will affect how we pray), but God also welcomes us “just as we are”, and we’re supposed to be present to God in corporate prayer, not critiquing others (I’m saying this to myself! ARRGH!).

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